Hess station's toy trucks sell fast

November 29, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

The line snaked past the fence and around into the parking lot of the Hess station Friday, never shrinking as people joined the end as quickly as others left.

All for the love of a little toy truck.

"It's been like this since 5 this morning," said Albert Janocha, owner of the Hess gas station on Route 140, motioning to the line of about 15 people. "Yesterday, we were sold out at about 9 or 10 in the morning."

The trucks, an annual tradition since 1964, went on sale Thanksgiving Day and will continue to be sold through Christmas. Hess in Westminster sold 1,400 of the trucks, which are collectibles, on the first day and expected to go through their double shipment of about 3,500 on Friday.

This year's version, for $11.99, is a green and white 18-wheel truck with a matching race car inside, complete with batteries to run the lights. Customers are limited to two trucks per visit and can buy a toy without buying gas.

"We do run out between shipments," Mr. Janocha said. "Usually, a shipment lasts us about a week."

Started as a "goodwill gesture," the trucks have now become collectors' items, as shown by the dedicated buyers last week. Shoppers from Damascus, Baltimore and Clarksburg flocked to the gas station, one of seven Hess stations in Maryland.

"This is an annual thing," said Susan Williams, a Westminster native who was returning to Springfield, Va. after the Thanksgiving holiday. "I started buying them for a little boy, liked them and thought they were reasonably priced.

"I've got a little Christmas toy display I like to put the trucks in."

Her collection of 30 compared favorably to Skip and Danny Blair of Clarksburg's collection of 35.

"This is our second time in line today," said Skip Blair. "All our friends collect them and they always appreciate in value."

But many were buying them for their children, regardless of age.

"I've bought them for my two boys every year since the '70s," said Audrey Owens, whose sons are 32 and 34.

"Now I'm starting on them for my grandson," she said.

The collectors are not limited to males. Ms. Williams said she was buying hers for her daughters.

"One for each," she said. "My little girl said, 'Mommy, please buy two this year.' "

Although the little trucks seem to add little to Hess' gas sales, at least in Westminster, it's a tradition the company can't stop.

"There's no secret that we view it as a way to build our business, but it has become an institution," a company spokesman said. "People look for them every year, and it is a way to keep the Hess name in front of people all year long."

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